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IBM Supercomputing Hardware IT Technology

IBM Optical Chip Moves Data At 1Tbps 127

snydeq writes "IBM researchers have developed a prototype optical chip that can transfer data at 1Tbps, the equivalent of downloading 500 high-definition movies, using light pulses, the company said Thursday. The chip, called Holey Optochip, is a parallel optical transceiver consisting of both a transmitter and a receiver, and is designed to handle the large amount of data created and transmitted over corporate and consumer networks as a result of new applications and services. It is expected to power future supercomputer and data center applications, an area where IBM already uses optical technology." User judgecorp links to more coverage, writing "The record was achieved because 24 holes in the chip allow direct access to lasers connected to the chip."
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IBM Optical Chip Moves Data At 1Tbps

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:13PM (#39289773)


  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:14PM (#39289787)

    1 terabit per second is 128 gigabyte per second - if they can fit 500 HD in 128 GB that compression is to me a much more important breakthrough...

    • Meth.. It workz bitchinz!

    • by Gripp ( 1969738 )
      my guess is they were talking required streaming rates...? I doubt the author actually thinks a 1Tbps would transfer 500 blue rays in 1 second... (though, you never know..)
    • by Tea-Bone of Brooklyn ( 828337 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:32PM (#39290021)
      They don't actually say how long it would take. Maybe it's just as cool as downloading 500 HD movies or something. The statement is sort of like "It goes 50,000 MPH, the equivalent of flying to Mars."
      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:11PM (#39290627)

        They don't actually say how long it would take. Maybe it's just as cool as downloading 500 HD movies or something. The statement is sort of like "It goes 50,000 MPH, the equivalent of flying to Mars."

        Yeah, the only way it could possibly be worse is if we perhaps had "MPH", and "MPh", the latter indicating a speed 1/8th as fast, but no one would EVER pay attention to the "typo"...

      • I believe the actual statement is "It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs"
        • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:51PM (#39291347) Homepage Journal

          You know, the phrase actually makes sense with the context (that was never given in the movie)

          quote: []

          The Kessel Run was an 18-parsec route used by smugglers to move glitterstim spice from Kessel to an area south of the Si'Klaata Cluster without getting caught by the Imperial ships that were guarding the movement of spice from Kessel's mines.

          It took travelers in real space around The Maw leading them to an uninhabitable—but far easier to navigate—area of space called The Pit, which was an asteroid cluster encased in a nebula arm making sensors as well as pilots go virtually blind. Thus there was a high chance that pilots, weary from the long flight through real space, would crash into an asteroid.

          So, the idea is that he took a rather large shortcut - "By moving closer to the black holes, Solo managed to cut the distance down to about 11.5 parsecs."

          • It still doesn't make any sense given that context. Ignoring the fact that the explanation was retconed in once people pointed out that a parsec is a unit of distance, the conversation that took place.

            Ben: Is it a fast ship?
            Solo: It's the ship that did the kessel run in less than 12 parsecs! I've outrun imperial starships! She's fast enough!

            In relation to a question about a ship being fast, he responds to something about a shortcut? I don't think so, I think the writers made a mistake in their terminol

            • You're right, it's not a compliment to Solo, but instead to his ship.

              I've imagined it was more along the lines of accelerating to some speed, then back down again within a certain distance. Since top speed is meaningless in space, the real comparison would be acceleration. Kind of similar to 1 to 60 in x seconds kind of remark, only replacing time with space to still have a meaningful metric, 1 to 60 in 500 feet.

            • Well, you could contstrue that the ship's engines were powerful enough to let him maneuver close enough to those blackholes to survive the shortcut (and/or was tough enough to not get ripped apart)

              I suppose the idea being that most ships could outrun Imperial starships... if they could survive the time it took to get out of range.

              Then again, I have to ask myself why I care or why I'm defending anyone here.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they are streaming them, not copying them in the one second?

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      Well they didn't say how long they were - probably just 10 minute trailers/shorts
    • It's possible that 128GBps buy although it has delay time and can't transfer 500 movies in 1 second. It's totally unbelievable.
    • First of all, this is networking, so they're probably using the standard version of terabit which would be 1000 Gb. Also, it's 1000, not 100. Also, I like your username. Wanna go out?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      1 terabit per second can handle 31250 HD streams per second simultaneously (1080i is 32 Megabits per second), but that's not the whole movie, just one second of each. For a typical 90 minute (5400 second) movie, 1 terabit per second can download 5.787 of those complete movies per second (which is still freakishly fast). I know when I'm recording tv onto the computer, 1080i consumes 2.42 megabytes of disk space per second. 3-4 hours of golf uses 26-34 Gigabytes (1080i is transmitted at 32 Megabits per sec

  • by justforgetme ( 1814588 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:14PM (#39289789) Homepage

    All the kids will be running around with their stupid laser pointers hacking into WoW!

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      All the kids will be running around with their stupid laser pointers hacking into WoW!

      Maybe we need to revisit Analog Computers - they were fast.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:15PM (#39289801) Homepage Journal

    Flying Car

    Optical Computer

    Pay Increase

    Not a chance on all three

    • by Zuriel ( 1760072 )
      I keep hearing mention of the flying car, and my response is always the same: have you *seen* how people drive? Do you want these people in the air?
      • Agreed. That is why I am looking forward to the driverless car. It would be a true revolution and save millions of lives.

        • Why not? The driverless car may well be the answer. I mean, we've already tried the Carless Driver, but those assholes just ignore the fact that their license is suspended, and keep on smashing up other people's stuff.
        • I'm just waiting for the driverless flying car equipped with optical computers.
        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          We already have driverless cars.

          That's why a lot of people aren't too keen on flying cars.

      • Big sky, lots of room. Big sky, lots of room.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          Never underestimate the ability of a suburbanite to mange to consume all available space. They constitute swarms in numbers far smaller than 12.

    • We're right on the verge of moving off of petroleum, and having self driving cars... That's vastly better than a flying car.

      But, flying cars may not be too far off. The much belated FAA upgrades are finally going to put in-place the technology needed to have self-regulating low-altitude airspace. From there we just need to keep reducing the weight of cars, and decrease the cost of making autogyro components.

      Optical computers are growing ever closer, and in the mean-time, there's no shortage of dramatic a

  • I guess there must be an old Batman and Robin fan on the marketing team. Cool...
  • I don't watch movies. Could someone get this in terms of LOCs?
  • 640Gbps (Score:5, Funny)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:24PM (#39289895) Homepage Journal

    ought to be enough for anybody.

  • Please make the units at least comparable. It's bad enough to measure data SIZE in "HD movies" (or LoC's), but then saying its equal to a data RATE without saying how long that might take is just wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    in 250ms!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At 1Tbps, you could copy my porn collection in only five hours!!!!!

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:31PM (#39290001)

    was Chris Dodd dropping after fainting.

  • alignment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phriedom ( 561200 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @01:31PM (#39290009)
    How would you like to be the technician who had to align 24 photodiodes and 24 lasers to 48 optical fibers on a 5mm x 5mm die. They should have a picture of that heroic individual in the press release. But no, the PR people are just making up crap about transfer rates.
    • by crgrace ( 220738 )

      I hope you're being sarcastic. The lasers, diodes and through-silicon vias are aligned using lithography. That heroic individual is a guy sitting in front of a workstation drinking Mountain Dew.

      • from TFA: "the holes on the chip allowing optical access to 24 850-nanometre vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSEL) and photodiode arrays flip-chip soldered to the Optochip" so no, the lasers and photodiodes are not part of the holey chip. But that isn't even the alignment I'm talking about, even if those were built into the chip, I think someone still has to align the polished end of the fiber to the diode, unless the diodes are so perfectly aligned to the holes and the holes have good enough tol
        • by crgrace ( 220738 )

          I think you may have misunderstood me. I wasn't implying that the module was monolithic. Flip-clip alignment masks are cut using optical techniques (as you surely know since it seems you work in IC layout), ergo lithography.

          As for the fiber termination, you could be right, I have no idea. My guess is there is a tapered connector, but since this is a research project it is entirely possible someone did it with a microscope. In that case, that guy (or gal) certainly does deserve a medal.

          At my last job, bo

          • Re:alignment (Score:4, Informative)

            by phriedom ( 561200 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @04:31PM (#39292911)
            Having read the much, much better IBM press release, I see now that the arrays of TX and RX diodes are assembled to the mother chip while it is still in wafer, which would imply automation, and as you said alignment by lithography. Then there is this bit: "The Holey Optochips are designed for direct coupling to a standard 48-channel multimode fiber array through an efficient microlens optical system that can be assembled with conventional high-volume packaging tools." So again, automated, not manual. I simply had no idea there was such a thing as a standard 48-channel multimode fiber array, like they sell them at Frye's or something. In any case, IBM seems to be trying to make it clear that this isn't some esoteric lab experiment like I assumed it was, but uses existing technology that could be scaled into production. Now my question is: what did they use to feed data to 24 40-something Gigabit channels? I'm guessing they loopback the optical side, but that is just a guess, maybe they have 24 optical sources and loopback the electrical side. I wish they had a picture of the whole setup.
  • When my ISP rolls this out I'll be able to hit my bandwidth cap in just a few milliseconds.
    • When my ISP rolls this out I'll be able to hit my bandwidth cap in just a few milliseconds.

      Well, assuming that you can get the servers out on the web to stream you content at that speed. True, you can simply open more connections to other servers I suppose (BitTorrent style), just remember that downloading implies a server uploading to you ie, it's a two way street.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    After RTFA, the Optical chip was all about pushing data from one side of the chip to the other using optics rather than electricity. The 1Tbps is just the throughput rather than any actual processing power. While I don't forsee an actual optical processing chip, where I can see this being useful is to speed up the transfer rates between main memory and the CPU, or possibly even between caches in the CPU. What won't change is how the data is being processed (using electrons). What remains to be seen is w

  • let the porn transfer begin lol.
  • There, that should be an easy comparison.
  • in, "Holey Optochip, Batman! Than was fast!" How creative.
  • by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @02:05PM (#39290549)

    The linked article sucks. Here it is straight from the horse's mouth. []

    • by nameer ( 706715 )

      Or, it would take just around an hour to transfer the entire U.S. Library of Congress web archive through the transceiver.

      There we go, a more traditional unit: 1 LoC/h

  • Then it is now. For that matter, that kind of data rate is going to seriously screw with many existing LAN and cluster fabrics - very few are designed to support that kind of on-the-wire rate. You'd need awe-inspiring hardware filtering and buffering to be able to convert between speeds on one side and speeds on the other. (The value would be that you could build one hell of a "fat tree" network if a single fibre is enough to guarantee that the total bandwidth of 20 downstream nodes is equal to the total up

    • by crgrace ( 220738 )

      The communication channel in the article is very, very different from the single mode fiber 400 Gbps link you give. You can't multiply them together.

      The chip in the article is very, very short range and doesn't use heavy-duty signal processing.

      The long-distance links are incredibly power-hungry and use a lot of expensive and challenging signal processing.

      And which chip had the older, clunkier technology? They use very different technology.

  • I dunno about you, but the last time I ripped an HD movie, it was about 240Gbits.

    I would say FOUR HD movies, not FIVE HUNDRED.

    Although, as usual, the shitty slashdot summary doesn't give proper units (i.e. 500 HD movies / unit time), so I suppose anything is possible.

  • I remember a slashdot argument months ago where I was trying to come up with ways to create larger multiprocessor CPUs given current limitations. I believe one idea I had was to make holes for data/connectors of some kind. Nice to see great minds thinking alike! (The other person in the argument was basically being negative rather than trying to find solutions like this. Ha ha.)

    • Whoops. Re-checked my history. More like internal connectors between CPUs than holes in a 'brain' like arrangement.

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